Citywide in the countryside

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Scania’s Citywide is available across Europe, but not in the UK. JONATHAN WELCH

Jonathan Welch takes a look at Scania’s European city bus range, the Citywide, and gets behind the wheel of the latest battery-electric version

Regular readers will remember that in late 2022, I paid a visit to Switzerland to look at some of the infrastructure projects carried out by Swiss company Furrer+Frey, a specialist in road, rail and tramway overhead lines and which is expanding its presence in the e-bus charging sector. I was invited to view installations of its all-in-one charging station in Brugg, and on a visit to Baden-Wettingen operator RVBW its ‘ZFP’ zero footprint overhead-mounted option. Both visits introduced me to a type of vehicle unfamiliar in the UK marketplace, the Scania Citywide, or more precisely in this case, the battery-electric Citywide BEV.

Whilst in the country, I was given the opportunity by Scania to try out a Citywide for myself. Before we get behind the wheel, though, let’s take a moment to look at the history of the model, which has been around in various forms on the European market for over a decade.

Model history

The current generation Citywide was unveiled by Scania at Busworld Europe in Brussels in 2019. The range was led by the battery electric version, but encompassed buses offering a variety of fuel types. “The new Scania Citywide range features lower fuel consumption, higher passenger capacity, better driveability, and vastly improved passenger and driver comfort,” said Scania Head of Buses Anna Carmo e Silva at its launch, adding: “Our guiding light has been to design a bus for more space, light and cleanliness. To reverse global warming, it is crucial that buses offer all the comforts needed to convince more people to switch to public transport.”


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Diesel versions were equipped with a choice of 7 or 9 litre engines mounted at the offside rear, while the position of the electric motor on the battery electric version of the 12-metre low-floor city bus leaves space for three extra seats behind the rear axle. The new generation saw a move from a transverse engine to a longitudinally-mounted one. An increased front axle load also permitted two extra seats compared to the previous generation, raising passenger capacity to a maximum of up to 100 depending of propulsion and layout; a figure likely only to be reached under the extremely heavy loading conditions sometimes encountered in major European cities, the likes of which UK passengers would be unlikely to tolerate.

Equipped with the 7-litre engine, which Scania said experience with previous models showed was the most common in city operations, the diesel variant offered fuel consumption improvements of by 3-5%. Combined with enhanced gearbox performance, and the introduction of a start-stop function, a reduction of up to 8% for diesel and 15% for gas buses was promised, with potential further savings on interurban low-entry buses through the use of Scania’s Opticruise system.

Improved aerodynamics and reduced weight also helped improve economy, not just for traditionally-fuelled versions, but for the battery-electric bus under the microscope here too, which, in common with its counterparts, also benefited from an interior and exterior refresh. In line with current trends, the new Citywide interior features light colours on roof and side panels, and larger side windows along with a higher ceiling line, designed to give more natural light inside the bus. The higher ceiling with flat cove panels, coupled with a broader aisle and indirect saloon lighting were designed to offer a greater feeling of spaciousness.

The new model, and the revised rear layout of the combustion-engined versions, meant room for an additional rear, whilst the glazed area can be expanded even further with low-level windows on the sides, as fitted to our test bus. Independent front suspension promised a smoother ride for drivers and passengers, whilst Scania said that to help operators maintain cleanliness, the bus was designed with minimised gaps and edges to simplify daily maintenance.

The previous generation Citywide range comprised the same gamut of low-floor and low-entry buses. It was unveiled by Scania in 2011 as the successor to its OmniCity and OmniLink ranges. Assembled at the manufacturer’s Polish factory in Słupsk, the Citywide LF low-floor option was based on the Scania N-series chassis, whereas the Citywide LE used the K-series as its underpinnings, both familiar chassis in the UK and Irish markets through Scania’s collaborations with Alexander Dennis and Irizar to name but two. It was built alongside Scania’s Touring and Interlink products, sharing some design cues at the front.

The low-entry version of the Citywide has a pronounced hump towards the rear, and a raised window line, as seen on this diesel model operated by PostBus. JONATHAN WELCH


Keen to have a look at the latest battery-electric version of the Citywide, and compare it to the UK equivalent, the Fencer, I paid a visit to the Scania dealership in Schattdorf, located just beyond the southern tip of Lake Lucerne, on a wide plain in the foothills of the Alps.

Initial impressions are, as promised by Scania at the launch, of a smart and modern bus. Large, flat side windows risk giving the bus a boxy look, but that is alleviated by subtle contoured mouldings around the wheelarches, and the alternating rooflines of different models; our electric test bus was fitted with a full length cove panel along the roof, though the range-wide distinctive ‘hump’ above the cab area was still noticeable. The low-entry model has a raised rear roofline above the raised rear section of the saloon and correspondingly raised window line; the saloon layout of the latter model more closely reflects British practice, though the raised external roofline is not currently a feature of any comparable UK models.

Also notable on the bus I drove was the extended gloss black area below the windows, which served to help integrate the low side windows neatly into the design. The gloss black continued on the front panels, giving a hint of the model’s predecessor. A multitude of angles could give the front light clusters and corner panels a cluttered look, but are restrained enough to look sharp without being overly fussy. Interesting to note too was that the black lower corner panels appeared to be separate parts, making them easy and cheaper to replace.

Needless to say, the bus features modern exterior lighting all around using LEDs for indicators and markers. Situated behind the large single-piece windscreen, the destination display appeared clear and easy to read; full screens were also fitted at the rear and on both sides within the first saloon window. Electrically-adjustable European standard mirrors were fitted, offering a normal and wide-angle view; whilst the scope of the view might not be much better than through the mirrors used by many UK operators, the units themselves looked much more solid.

The eagle-eyed will spot the pods just behind the front wheels on each side; still relatively uncommon though growing in popularity, these form part of the side safety system, which warns drivers of other road users such as cyclists or pedestrians in the blindspot alongside the vehicle. Further safety is offered by the optional Scania Zone geofencing system.

The charging socket is located alongside the front door; the 14.7 tonne, 12.2m Citywide offers a maximum of 330kWh of installed power from a bank of 10 roof-mounted batteries, and a range of between 180 and 220km.

Moving around to the rear, the smart modern LED lighting sites neatly either side of a large power bay door, above which the rear window takes up around three fifths of the width, the remainder occupied by a large grille for cooling. High level marker and indicator lights are integrated, and I rather liked the spoiler-style design of the roof-level fairings, designed to allow air to flow, minimising drag, whilst maintaining a clean roofline. The effect is enhanced by judicious use of black paint on the sides, giving the impression of a wing.

The saloon is modern and fresh. The concealed lighting in the ceiling is a particularly nice touch. JONATHAN WELCH

Wood and steel

Stepping aboard revealed the type of smart modern ‘coffee shop’ interior that we are coming to expect from a bus in the 2020s. Wood-effect flooring gives a warm feel, whilst the smart, businesslike dark patterned moquette of the seats provided a contrast to the brushed metal handrails. The bright ceiling and integrated lighting gave the airy effect promised by Scania in its publicity,

Interestingly, the lower panels in the saloon are a dark charcoal colour, from floor up to the top of the windows, reflecting a move away from the lighter colours that have been in fashion for many years. Around the entrance area, black or very dark grey are always welcome for doors and A-pillars, as they offer minimal reflection from internal lighting at night.

I was particularly impressed with the carpet-like finish on the roof panels above the cab, good for both reducing reflection and keeping noise levels down as well; the same is to be found at the very rear. The lower dash panel, which curves around into the cab door and partition, is in a light finish, which looks smart and provides a modern contrast, but could be susceptible to scuffs and marks.

Double seats are fitted above both front wheels, though equipment housings prevent any luggage space from being included behind. Walking through the saloon, we next come to two bays of four seats, one either side of the aisle, and then the expected multi-use space which offers positions for up to two wheelchairs opposite the centre door. A pair of tip-up seats add versatility, whilst wheelchair users can secure themselves with one of a pair of seatbelt-style retractable restraints.

The area which will feel most strange to those used to British buses is around the rear, where the flat floor – it raises slightly over the rear axle – leads to a third twin-leaf door. Those wedded to the British way might criticise it as clumsy, but I found the layout of seats and steps spot on, leaving room to circulate whist permitting easy access to all of the raised seats, helped by well-positioned handrails. The layout of the ‘shower cubicle’ housing engine or other propulsion equipment is familiar already; seen in the context of a left-hand drive bus, it makes much more sense than on a single-door UK equivalent.

The driver’s area offers a very high class workplace. JONATHAN WELCH

In the cab

The cab, I have to say, was extremely impressive. Coach-like was the term that came to mind. It certainly felt the part, with a high-quality feel, helped no end by the Scania steering wheel, with its tactile finish and built-in buttons. Looking back at my photos, I wonder if the cab would be too plush for a UK operator, especially the requirements of many major groups, but it certainly looked like it would meet the high expectations of the Swiss market, where spartan and basic are not seen as acceptable qualities.

At the launch, Scania said: “With the new driver’s area, ergonomics has been vastly improved through better pedal placement, more leg space, driver height settings, all-angle step-less seat adjustments, better visibility and better reachability. Nearly all instrument panel buttons are CAN-based and can thereby easily be customised for varying local applications.” Did it live up to the hype? In terms of layout, I think so. The digital dashboard offered an array of information, whilst switches were neatly and logically laid out within easy reach. Common ones such as door and suspension controls fell easily to hand on the right of the steering wheel, above which a rotary switch easily mistaken at first look for a light switch selects drive, neutral and reverse. As I found out on my Enviro500 test drive, Swiss buses are commonly fitted with a ‘waiting room’ feature, enabled by a button on the dashboard and which allows passengers to open the doors and board the bus when the driver is not present. The Citywide was no exception, though the feature seems somewhat novel to British eyes.

The only control I didn’t find ideal was the electronic handbrake, positioned vertically on the facia panel by the driver’s left leg, though compared to handbrake levers of old it might seem churlish to criticise, especially from the comfort of the highly-adjustable Isri driver’s seat. Heater controls were located on the dashboard rather than above the driver’s head, and the tachograph head unit was also within relatively easy reach.

Above the driver, one screen showed the view from a 360-degree camera system, offering added safety, whilst internal CCTV cameras ensured a good view of the centre and rear doors; all doors have the additional benefit of sensitive edges, which cause them to re-open if touched. An array of side window, windscreen and A-pillar sun blinds ensured a good view for the driver, without obstructing the mirrors.

Tucked away in front of the dashboard and mounted in the winsdcreen is a veritable array of sensors for on-board electronic safety systems. The solid cab door added to the feeling of both quality and safety.

The rear view shows the ‘spoiler’ on the roof, the effect is enhanced by black paint on the sides. JONATHAN WELCH

On the road

I drove this bus shortly after the test drive of a PostBus Enviro500, a bus on which I’d struggled to adapt to the left hand drive seating position and found myself constantly having to correct my position on the road. So it’s fair to say that it was with a little trepidation that I fastened the seatbelt and adjusted my mirrors on the Citywide.

I needn’t have feared. Despite much reflection, I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I found the Citywide significantly easier to drive. I can only put it down to the better visibility afforded by the deep windscreen and slender A-pillars, which helped me position the bus more confidently and remain aware of my surroundings in my peripheral vision compared to the necessarily more cramped cab and stouter A-pillars of a double-decker.

Scania has done its best to ensure that the driving environment is as close as possible across all buses in the range, be they diesel, gas or electric, to help driver familiarity. The team at Scania Switzerland also explained to me that although our test route took in some spectacular and hilly terrain, the bus we were driving was mostly used on flatter routes. These, Scania says, are more suited to electric bus operation than the rapid discharge-charge cycles of hilly routes, where battery life can be reduced through the constant heavier cycles of powering upwards then regenerating on the way down. It was interesting to note that in our descent, having started at 78%, the state of charge had risen to 81% by the end of our run.

Capable of being fast-charged from a 150kW charger in an hour and a half, the Citywide is also able to use opportunity charging via roof-mounted rails. To maintain range in cold climates, a supplementary diesel heater is also available; Scania says that in temperatures below 5 degrees, this is a better solution than a heat pump, and prevents excessive drops in range in cold weather.

Returning to the cab experience, this was a bus that I found easy to drive, with well-weighted steering and good all-round vision through the mirrors, with the back-up of the radar and all-round camera systems an added bonus, though of course for an experienced and conscientious driver such systems should always be a ‘last resort’ rather than something to be relied upon.

Travelling in the saloon as well as from the cab, very little body noise was apparent, a few squeaks and rattles excepted; looking back over the footage for our YouTube channel suggests a few more rattles than I registered when on board. Motor noise was certainly noticeable on our ascent as the bus worked hard, but still not intrusive. Overall, I found the working environment very pleasant, and the quiet travelling environment likewise. A positive impression, then, and in some ways, it’s a shame that the Citywide won’t make it into the UK, but at the same time, it’s easy to think it might be a bus which would be over-specified for what all but the highest end of the market is looking for.